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Painting Ceramic Mugs! How to Paint New Life Into Your Old Coffee Mugs By Hand

Got some old mugs that looks like the bin might be the best new home? Don’t throw them away! Painting mugs turns them into a the perfect gift for your grandma, or a thoughtful Mother’s Day present.

Turning a tired-looking mug into a cute coffee cup is a perfect DIY project, just use one of these simple design ideas and some acrylic paint!

In this quick but full tutorial, I’ll show you how to paint your own mug with a couple of different designs.

The best part is that after you’ve seen the how-to and another flowery design idea, you can get creative. Before you know it, all of your mugs will have smiley faces, bunny rabbits, rainbows and flowers!

Let’s just start with one mug, though.

Supply List for Hand Painted Ceramic Mug

Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

How to Make a Hand Painted Ceramic Mug

Follow along with the written instructions below to make that old mug unique – make sure you read to the end before you start. Then you can come back to the beginning and go step-by-step with me.

Step 1: Clean & Dry Your Mug

It may seem like a silly thing to say, but clean your mug with soapy water before you paint it!

Oils from your kitchen, from food, or even from your hands will get in the way of the paint sticking to the ceramic’s surface. Not ideal if you want your efforts to last!

Dry with a towel and let it air dry fully before painting.

Step 2: Start Painting the First Color

Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Start with the outer ring of the rainbow so, if you’re sticking with natural colors, whatever kind of purple you’re using comes first.

Using one solid color for each arc of the rainbow is a good idea if you’re a beginner to acrylics.

Paint a nice, wide semicircle. The thicker your brush, the bigger you should make your first circle to allow space for the other colors inside.

Step 3: Add the Second Color

Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Right underneath the purple, paint a green semicircle. I think it looks nicest when there aren’t any gaps between colors but this is entirely up to you.

Step 4: Repeat Until Complete

Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Repeat Step 3 for the next two colors, painting the orange and yellow semicircles just inside the color before it.

If you started crossing one colour over another, you may want to carry on doing that to keep it the same throughout.

Step 5: Allow to Dry

Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Acrylic paint takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to be touch dry, depending on its thickness, but you’ll need to leave it for 1-4 days to dry completely solid before it is safe to hand wash.

(Optional) Step 6: Seal or Cure in Kiln/Oven

mod podge dishwasher safe vs oven curing

For best results, once completely dry (1-4 days later), make your freshly painted coffee mug dishwasher safe with Mod Podge’s dishwasher safe variant.

Apply 2-3 thin coats, allowing 2 hours between each coat.


You can cure the acrylic paint in an oven at 350F degrees (around 180C) for 30 minutes. This won’t make it dishwasher safe, but it will keep for a lot longer when hand washing.

Make sure you put the mug into a cool oven, then turn it on.

Finished Hand Painted Ceramic Mug

Here is my finished hand-painted ceramic mug (and another simple design I did with flower petals). I’m very happy with the end result!

I’m looking forward to using these for my bright and cheery morning coffee – and they add a lovely splash of color to my cupboard!

Two Hand Painted Coffee Mugs Rainbow Flowers
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Don’t forget to check out my top tips for this project below as well as some frequently asked questions you might have been wondering about.

Top Tips for Painting Mugs

Tip 1: Drying Time

To speed up the paint’s drying time:

  1. Use thin coats of paint.
  2. Ventilate the drying area well.
  3. Keep it above 64C degrees.

Acrylic paint is pretty fast drying as far as paint goes, but it’s always nice to speed things up if you’re as eager as I am to have a job done!

Avoid these things to save some time when drying your acrylic paint!

Tip 2: Straight Lines

The best way I’ve found to paint straight lines is to use masking tape. When I first came across this great idea I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner myself!

Tip 3: Get Creative

This really should have been tip 1.

I don’t care if you’ve heard me say this a thousand times before, but you can make it your own by getting creative!

Use different colors or combination of colors, pick any of your favorite designs, throw in some tree branches, or use different patterns, from polka dots to straight lines and geometric patterns! Don’t limit yourself to my ideas, do what ever it is that you feel like doing.

If you’re doubting your ability to make it up as you go along, move on to Tip 4.

Tip 4: Making Mistakes

Don’t worry if you make a “mistake!” See this through to the end and then decide if you like it—before curing it, of course.

Best case? You find a new way of painting you hadn’t thought of before.

Worst case? You wash it off with warm soapy water and start over!

Tip 5: Don’t Buy Expensive Hand-Painted Mugs

Hand painted mugs are so simple to make for yourself, all you need is an old mug, some paint brushes, and acrylic paints (or any of the kinds of paint mentioned in the next section).

A great gift doesn’t have to be an expensive gift! People love to know that you think about them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paint do you use on mugs?

You have a few options for paint to use on mugs, choosing the right paint is important. Here are my favorites:

Acrylic Paint – Best for simple patterns and highly recommended for working on ceramics, it is cheap and adheres well to smooth surfaces. Certain acrylic paints have been formulated for unglazed ceramics -– be sure to read the label! Bake to cure and hand wash only, unless you coat with a dishwasher safe sealant.

Nail Polish – Didn’t expect that one? It can be a fun way to give a wide range of beautiful, marbled effects. I did this a while back and put together a little how-to for you.

Acrylic Enamel Paint (Oil-based) – It has a high gloss and is dishwasher safe once oven-cured. The only downside? It’s typically a little pricey compared to water-based, but I guess you don’t need to splash out out the dishwasher safe Mod Podge.

Enamel Paint Pens (Oil-based) – A good solution with a handy built-in applicator. Bake them in the oven and they become top-rack dishwasher safe! The Sharpie brand are well known for their reliability, but you can save more than a few cents with Artistro’s Paint Pens which work very well.

Black Chalkboard Paint – Perfect if you’d like to add a bit of creativity to your morning cup of coffee. Just check the label and make sure it is suitable for ceramics.

Will acrylic paint wash off a mug?

Yes, acrylic paint will wash off a mug in a dishwasher or even with a vigorous hand wash.

A great way to stop acrylic paint washing off a mug is to use an acrylic enamel paint (oil-based) and cure in the oven, or consider a dishwasher-safe sealant.

Can you drink from a mug painted with acrylic paint?

Yes, you can drink from a mug painted with acrylic paint BUT make sure that the paint is only on the outside of the mug and won’t be at the top of the mug (where you put your mouth).

Will Sharpie wash off a mug?

Regular Sharpies will wash off a mug because, like a normal permanent marker, it is not oil based.

Avoid this by using Sharpie’s oil-based paint pens and baking your DIY coffee mug in the oven once finished.

Printable Project Instructions

Two Hand Painted Coffee Mugs Rainbow Flowers

DIY Rainbow Hand Painted Ceramic Mug

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Upcycle your old coffee mugs with a lick of paint and some easy designs!


  • Acrylic paint
  • A plain mug


  • Paint brush


  1. Wash your mug with warm soapy water, towel dry and leave to air dry.
  2. Paint a large purple semicircle.
  3. Paint a smaller green semicircle inside the purple one.
  4. Repeat with orange and then yellow.
  5. Allow 20 minutes to 2 hours to be touch dry.
  6. (Optional) Once completely dry, cover with dishwasher-safe sealant OR cure in the oven for 30 mins at 350F (180C).


SAFETY: When curing, put the mug into a cold oven and allow to heat up.

If you're not curing, it will be safe to hand wash gently after 4 days.

Other DIY projects you might like:

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Friday 22nd of September 2023

I was hoping for more instructions on how to paint straight lines ie horizontal stripes on a mug. How to make sure that the masking tape is straight!

Kristen Hubert

Wednesday 27th of September 2023

Thanks for the feedback! Very helpful!

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